Essar Oil Vadinar refinery
Representational imageReuters File

Land acquisition concerns have earlier pushed the deadline for Saudi Aramco-backed Ratnagiri refinery project from 2022 to 2025. Now the centre is considering proposals to shift the $70 billion (about Rs 4 lakh crore) Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd (RRPCL) project from Maharashtra to Gujarat, Deccan Herald exclusively reported

RRPCL is a joint venture between Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), and three state-run oil marketing companies, Indian Oil Corp. (IOCL), Hindustan Petroleum Corp. (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corp. (BPCL).

RRPCL project obstacles

The RRPCL project announced in December 2015 was set to be commissioned by 2022, but land acquisition concerns have led to the extension of deadline and delays until 2025. The project required about 10,000 acres of land. It was proposed to be set up at Nanar village in Ratnagiri district. However, protests by farmers in Ratnagiri backed by Shiv Sena support against setting up of the project in the region led Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis to consider shifting the refinery project from Ratnagiri to neighbouring Raigad district in the Konkan region.

BJP shiv Sena alliance
BJP President Amit Shah and Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, along with Maharashtra Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis during a joint media briefing regarding BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections, in Mumbai on Feb 18, 2019.IANS

The Konkan region comprises the twin districts of Mumbai City and Mumbai Suburban, a neighbourhood of Palghar, Thane districts and the belt of Raigad, Ratnagiri, and Sindhudurg. The Konkan region is the bastion of the Shiv Sena, and with the change in regime in Maharashtra, the centre now sees no end to the long-impending land acquisition hurdle, the report said. 

The Shiv Sena had in the past opposed setting up of the nuclear power park project in Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district as well. The political tiff between the ruling BJP and the Shiv Sena has only contributed to flaring the issue.

Gujarat, a favourable choice

While the Maharashtra government is keen to retain the project from the viewpoint of investments and employment generation potential, the centre is, however, considering proposals to shift the mega-refinery project to business-friendly states such as Gujarat, which is already home to the gigantic Reliance Industries refinery as well as Essar Oil, that was recently sold to Rosneft of Russia. Indian Oil also has its Koyali refinery in the state as well.

With Gujarat now stepping up as a strong contender, known for its speedy approval processes and business-friendly policies, it is equally keen to secure the project and amplify its energy portfolio. The Maharashtra Government will now have to pull out all stops to ensure that it does not face such an eventuality. The stakeholders of RRPCL in any case, are unlikely to wait beyond August.